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7 Best Selling Compact Trucks

Buying compact pickup trucks can be an arduous project for many people. With so many features, brands, and versions of such brands, deciding which compact truck is right for you can seem overwhelming. In service of this common predicament, this article seeks to alleviate any undue stress you may be experiencing during the purchasing process as well as help you reach a decision in which you are confident.

What follows is a review of seven vehicles that were selected as the best compact trucks currently on the market. At the end we will discuss our conclusions about which of the seven compact trucks qualified as the best under our analysis.

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FAQ

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What Are Compact Pickup Trucks?

Compact pickup trucks, also sometimes called light pickup trucks, are the most prevalent type of pickup truck on the market. Compact pickup trucks are best suited for individuals who need to haul items of light to moderate weight. Commonly towed/hauled items include furniture, small boats, tools, lawn mowers, and agricultural products like hay bails and dirt. 

While compact pickup trucks are often used for transporting personal belongings, many landscaping and repair companies use compact pickup trucks to conduct daily business. Most compact pickup trucks on the market have a payload capacity that ranges between 1,500 to 3,000 pounds, and a towing capacity of approximately 12,00 pounds.

What Are Heavy-Duty Pickup Trucks?

Unlike compact pickup trucks, there are fewer heavy-duty pickup trucks on the market. Heavy-duty pickup trucks offer more towing and hauling power than light-duty trucks and are usually equipped with enhanced transmission systems and diesel engines. Heavy-duty pickup trucks can tow and haul all loads of which a compact pickup truck is capable, the difference separating them is that a heavy-duty pickup can tow large fifth-wheel trailers and larger boats. 

Instead of personal use, heavy-duty pickup trucks more often used commercially, such as in construction work, which requires hauling heavy building materials up steep hills and across rugged terrains. Most heavy-duty pickup trucks have a payload capacity of 6,500 pounds and an impressive towing capacity that exceeds 20,000 pounds.

What Are the Advantages of Buying New Versus Used Compact Pickup Trucks?

One advantage of buying a new compact pickup truck is the tendency for newer vehicles to outlast used vehicles. While there are exceptions to this assumption, the proclivity for vehicles to experience mechanical problems with increased use and mileage remains an important factor that distinguishes the benefits of a new vehicle from a used one. 

Insofar as a used compact pickup truck might be older than a new one, another advantage of buying a new vehicle might lie in obtaining a pickup truck that functions more reliably or efficiency because of newer techno-mechanical innovations. Lastly, the cabin in a new compact pickup truck will probably be cleaner and less worn than the interior of a pre-owned vehicle.

The advantage of buying a used compact pickup truck is that it will likely be much less expensive than buyer a new vehicle. Buying a pre-owned pickup truck might be practical for those who already own a daily driver but want a second vehicle to tow their fishing boat, help a friend move, or transport that annual Christmas tree with ease. But even if one wants a new daily driver, purchasing a used compact pickup truck might also be a great choice because the spry pre-owned truck market offers great opportunities to obtain a quality vehicle. In the end, while there are many advantages and disadvantages of buying new versus used compact pickup trucks, the decision ultimately depends on the preferences and circumstances of particular individuals.

How We Reviewed

Our reviews are based upon those formulated by the U.S. News & World Report.  While much of our review list is informed by the U.S. News & World Report, we draw our own conclusions about which compact trucks are best in the final analysis.


What We Reviewed

  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Ford Explorer Sport Trac
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Ford Ranger
  • GMC Canyon
  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • Nissan Frontier

Honda Ridgeline (2017)

The Honda Ridgeline is a 5-seat compact pickup truck capable of exerting 280 HP. Depending on which version of the Honda Ridgeline you purchase, gas mileage may range from 18-19 in the city and 25-26 on the highway. Moreover, among all 9 versions, 5 are all-wheel-drive and 4 are front-wheel-drive. While the Honda Ridgeline is a good truck, its towing capacity falls short of its class competitors.

However, its 3.5 L V6 engine offers respectable power and acceleration and can successfully tow most ordinary truckloads. Offering one of the smoothest rides in its class, the Honda Ridgeline exceeds many other compact trucks in the cabin quality. In addition to offering two rows of comfortable seats, the Ridgeline also comes with several appealing cabin features, such as in-bed speakers, a trunk drain plug, and a convenient power outlet.

PROS  

  • Smooth ride and easy handling
  • One of the most luxurious cabins in its class
  • Versatile bed
  • Includes several active safety features

  CONS

  • Towing capacity is lower than class competitors
  • Expensive
  • Complex infotainment system may confuse some users

Price

The Honda Ridgeline has a $ MSRP which exceeds the price of many class competitors. Optional customizations for this vehicle (e.g., RTL, RTL-T, or RTL-E trims) increase the overall price range from $ to $$$. And if you should want the range-topping Black Edition, the final price starts around $$$.

Warranty

The Honda Ridgeline comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Ford Explorer Sport Trac (2010)

The Ford Explorer Sport Trac is a 5-seat compact pickup equipped with a 4.0 L V8 engine capable of producing anywhere from 210 to 292 HP. Depending on the version, the Explorer Sport Trac gets anywhere from 13-15 MPG in the city and 19-21 MPG on the highway and is available in both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive.

The V8 engine in the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, aside from running very smoothly, is capable of towing up to 7,160 pounds, which exceeds the towing abilities of most compact trucks. The vehicle seems to be manufactured with durable materials, some of which include high-quality leather seats, a power sunroof, and a high-tech SYNC infotainment system. Overall, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac is a great compact truck equipped with power comparable to heavy-duty trucks.

PROS  

  • Quality cabin interior
  • V-8 engine
  • Considerable towing capacity

  CONS

  • Short bed length restricts carrying capacity
  • Some users think that seats need better thigh support

Price

Because it was manufactured between 2001-2010, the age of the Ford Explorer Sport Trac makes for an affordable MSRP. The average range is $11,158 to $16,030.

Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits apply to trucks with maximum age/mileage of less than 6 years old/less than 80,000 miles. Moreover, pre-owned benefits also include 12 months/12,000 miles for basic warranty terms, and a 7 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Toyota Tacoma (2018)

Features

The Toyota Tacoma is 4-5-seat compact pickup truck equipped with a 3.5 L V6 engine. Depend on the model, the Toyota Tacoma is available in both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive, can generate 159-278 HP, and averages 17-20 MPG in the city and 20-24 MPG on the highway. The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most sought after compact trucks in its class for off-road performance.

While this compact truck is not at the forefront for its towing ability and fuel efficiency, the Tacoma can handle most towing jobs with ease. 

PROS  

  • Competent off-road travel abilities
  • Easy-to-navigate infotainment system
  • More expensive than many class competitors

  CONS

  • Sub-optimal fuel economy
  • Lower towing capacity than many other competitors 
  • Less luxurious than many class rivals

Price

The Toyota Tacoma has a MSRP that ranges from $25,400 to $43,720.

Warranty

The Tacoma includes a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Ford Ranger (2011)

Features

The Ford Ranger is a 2.3 L V6 averaging a 210-292 HP output. The Ford Ranger can seat 3-5 persons and gets 14-22 MPG in the city and 18-27 on the highway. All versions of the 2011 Ford Ranger included rear-wheel-drive and the option of either a manual or automatic transmission. While all of these features may sound attractive, the Ford Ranger does have its disadvantages, even if they are relatively minor.

For instance, some users have commented on the harsh feeling ride of the Ford Ranger and others have pointed out the cheap plastics in its interior cabin. While these complaints are anecdotal at best, they might be problematic to those looking for a modern compact truck equipped with the latest technology and automotive luxury. Overall, despite these flaws, the 2011 Ford Ranger was built to last, and its high dependability rating continues to make the Ranger a fierce competitor among compact trucks.

PROS  

  • Simple interior
  • Easy to use interior controls
  • Affordable

  CONS

  • Outdated design
  • Class competitors are more technologically advanced
  • Rivals score better in performance

Price

The MSRP on a pre-owned 2011 Ford Ranger ranges from $ to $$.

Warranty

A new Ford Ranger has a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

GMC Canyon (2018)

Features

The GMC Canyon is a 2.5 L compact truck that gets 17-22 MPG in the city and 24-30 MPG on the highway. Fit to seat 2-5 persons, the GMC Canyon comes in several versions, including all-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive options. The GMC Canyon is available in three engine types: (1) 200 HP, four-cylinder, (2) 308 HP V6, and (3) 181 HP turbo-diesel (which produces 369 pound-feet of torque). Moreover, the GMC Canyon has easy handling, is equipped with high-quality cabin items, and drives smoothly both on-road and off-road. Overall, the GMC is a great compact truck that is built to perform and leads its class in towing, fuel efficiency, and hauling ability.  

PROS  

  • Offers several different engine options
  • Competent towing and hauling abilities
  • Efficient fuel economy
  • Luxurious interior

  CONS

  • Some users have experienced a lack of front-seat support

Price

The MSRP for the GM Canyon ranges from $ to $$$.

Warranty

The GM Canyon includes a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Chevrolet Colorado (2018)

Features

The Chevrolet Colorado is a 2.5 L compact truck that averages 15-22 MPG in the city and 15-30 MPG on the highway. Capable of seating 2-5 persons, the Colorado is available in both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive. Like class competitors, the Chevrolet Colorado offers three engine options: (1) 200 HP four-cylinder, (2) 308 HP V6, and (3) 181 HP turbo-diesel.

While the first option is best suited for daily commuting, the V6 provides the best acceleration with a respectable towing and hauling capacity. And despite its superior hauling and towing compared to the first two, the turbo-diesel option delivers the best gas mileage of the three.The Chevrolet Colorado is a versatile truck fit to handle any occasion. All three engine options offer gas mileage that is above-average for a class of its towing and hauling power, and its spacious cabin with its high-quality tech items make riding in the Colorado a comfortable experience.

PROS  

  • Powerful engine
  • Fuel-efficient engine
  • Impressive towing capacity
  • Rides smooth

  CONS

  • Infotainment system difficult to operate for some users
  • Lower crash test ratings than many class rivals

Price

The Chevrolet Colorado offers an MSRP that ranges from $ to $$$.

Warranty

The Chevrolet Colorado comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Nissan Frontier (2018)

Features

The Nissan Frontier is a 2.5 L - 4.0 L compact truck capable of 15-19 MPG in the city and 21-23 MPG on the highway. Available both in all-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive, users have the further option of choosing among two engines: a 152 HP four-cylinder (better for daily driving) and a 261 HP V6 (better for hauling and towing and fast acceleration).

The equal costs and benefits of the Nissan Frontier seem to neutralize the possibility of making both favorable or unfavorable judgments. For instance, it almost seems like the extent to which the front seats are comfortable is equal (in degree) to the discomfort of the back seats, thus producing a kind of cancellation effect.

While the truck is not bad per se, the Nissan Frontier lacks many features in comparison to class rivals. For instance, most other competitors surpass the Nissan Frontier in towing/hauling capacity, smooth handling, fuel efficiency, and technological gadgets. Overall, as a compact truck that has not undergone a notable redesign in roughly 13 years, the Nissan Frontier is becoming unappealing in contrast with the newer compact trucks.

PROS  

  • Affordably priced
  • Comfortable seats

  CONS

  • Lower towing and hauling capacity compared to many class rivals
  • Unpalatable fuel economy
  • Outdated cabin design

Price

The MSRP for the Nissan Frontier ranges widely from $18,990 to $36,800.

Warranty

The Nissan Frontier comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

The Verdict

The Chevrolet Colorado seems to be the best choice among the compact trucks if one wants a versatile vehicle capable of providing comfort, reliability, fuel efficiency, and power. While the GMC Canyon and the Honda Ridgeline are certainly close rivals to the Chevrolet Colorado, they simply could not beat the starting $20,000 MSRP of Colorado. In short, the overall value that one receives for the low price is what makes the Chevrolet Colorado the victor in this analysis.

For those who are interested in buying one of these compact trucks but cannot afford a new vehicle, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and Ford Ranger are the best options. The cheapest option among these two is the Ford Ranger, with a staring MSRP of around $8,000. However, because the Ford Ranger is the most dated option on this list, those who a bit more to spend may want to purchase the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, which starts at an MSRP of around $11,000. This additional $3,000 will get you a newer vehicle with nicer interior and slightly better fuel efficiency, power output, and performance handling.